The text of a lecture given at Swedenborg House in Bloomsbury, beautifully published by the Swedenborg Archive.
Sinclair ranges across territory familiar to those who’ve met his writing before: a historical sense of London very much rooted in place, in particular the East End and the huge changes wrought there by the arrival of the Olympics. In this lecture he discusses Blake: where he lived in London, the various walks he described, and (at the end) the barrier of the Thames between the very different north and south – quoting another writer’s describing London as like Buda-Pest. Another focus is Blake’s route in Jerusalem from Highgate (the ancient entrance to the city, on the old route of the north road) round to Hackney, “Stratford’s old Ford”, and the Isle of Dogs. Sinclair suggests that the old ford is in fact Old Ford, the ancient lowest ford on the Lea, the road to East Anglia, and on the border between Saxon and Danish England. There’s also much (interesting) personal reminiscence from Sinclair, especially of his time with Ginsberg in the 60s, and how both were inspired by a then-resurgent Blake, as well as a fascinating account of Blake’s, Defoe’s and Bunyan’s graves in Bunhill Fields.
When we get to Sinclair on the Olympics, I get into difficulties. I share his anger at the destruction of an ancient and beautiful landscape, and at the corporate blandness which has replaced it, but not angry enough to go on a demo or write to my MP: London has always moved on and changed, and Sinclair does acknowledge that part at least of what he feels is (merely?) the conservatism of the old. The landscape he loves / loved was itself sculpted by Londoners, and the empty stadia will soon (in London time) be replaced.
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